Screen time. How much is too much and how do we limit it?
It’s a question more and more parents are asking in this technology driven world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids ages 2 to 5 spend no more than an hour a day with screens of any kind – TV, tablet, phone, or computer. The AAP recommends no screens at all for children younger than 18 months.
That being said I know that there are days when we are well over the 1 hour limit… and I have friends who’s kids are plonked in front of the TV for several hours a day.
There are some days when screen time just can’t be limited to the recommended hour… rainy days anyone? So how can we, as parents ensure that the time spent in from of the TV or tablet is still somewhat beneficial for our kids?
1. Set clear rules
Toddlers must be made aware of the screen time limit and must understand that this viewing time is a privilege.
2. Don’t use screen time as a reward
It’s easy to offer their favorite show as a reward for good behavior, but this only reinforces the idea that TV time is the ultimate indulgence.
3. Choose the content wisely
You are in charge of the content your child watches… ensure you choose fun but educational shows that will help your child learn and develop in an exciting way.
4. Make sure content is age appropriate
Age restrictions are there for a reason. Always ensure the programs your child watches are age appropriate. This is especially important when they are watching videos on an internet-based application like YouTube, where content isn’t widely monitored or censored and it’s very easy to click on the “wrong” video. Which leads to the next point…
5. Try as much as possible to watch WITH your child
I know that most parents don’t enjoy Dora the Explorer or Tweenies, but whenever possible try to watch shows with your children. Apart from offering supervision, it can become a fun and interactive family time instead of them zoning out in front of the screen.
6. Make TV shows relatable.
Help your child connect what they’re seeing on screen to real life. If Barney is singing about his beautiful garden… remind them about your trip to the park last weekend and all the pretty flowers they saw. Take the opportunity to remind them that flowers grow in Spring, then relate to the other 3 seasons and discuss each one for example.
It’s so fun to watch them thinking critically about what they’re seeing on the screen!
7. Don’t allow “background TV”
As soon as your child loses interest in the screen, (as toddlers usually do), switch it off. TV should never provide background noise whilst busy with other activities.
8. Model healthy screen time behavior
If you spend a lot of time playing video games, scrolling through your phone/laptop or binge-watching your favorite TV series, it will be an uphill battle to get your children to comply with screen time restrictions.
Be a role model in this aspect for your children and you can Netflix and chill (literally) when the kids are in bed.